Since Edward Thorp developed his initial card counting system, dozens of other systems have been developed, with varying degrees of difficulty and effectiveness at keeping track of the high to low card ratio. Do you want a simple system that is less effective? How about a mind-boggling system that is more effective? But with every card counting system, the concept is the same: by keeping a ratio of small cards to high cards, it gives the player a better indication of when the advantage shifts from the casino to the player. When the casino has the advantage, you bet less; when you have the advantage, you should bet more. It’s kinda like buying stocks low and selling high. On top of that, card count systems indicate when you should deviate from basic strategy.
We recommend, and teach, Hi-Lo. There’s a video of Why We Teach Hi-Lo below, but here is a comparison of the top card counting systems.
The chart above shows the count “tags” that each system assigns for each card value. For example, in Hi-Lo, the 2-6 valued cards would get a “plus 1” value, meaning each time you see a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 hit the felt you would add 1 to your running count. On the opposite end of the spectrum you would subtract 1 from your running count if you see a ten or an ace hit the felt. The other cards you ignore. Each system has different tags and true count resolution methods (or lack thereof).
Betting Correlation (BC): The betting correlation is how effective the card counting system is at predicting valuable betting situations as compared to what a computer could do. The higher the better. A high betting correlation means the system’s count-tags very closely approximate the real “effect of removal” of each card.
Playing Efficiency (PE): The Playing Efficiency is a measure of how effective each strategy is at determining correct playing variations (i.e. “Deviations” or basic strategy “departures”). Just like betting correlation, the higher the better.
Insurance Correlation (IC): How effective the card counting strategy is at predicting when to buy insurance. Obviously, strategies that have a separate Ace side count are going to be better at determining when to buy insurance. But in our (humble) opinion, a side count strategy is not worth the effort. Putting more time into playing more efficiently, erasing mistakes from your game, and acting less like a robotic card counter will have a bigger impact on your bottom line than learning a more complicated strategy.
Balanced or Unbalanced (bal?): A balanced count begins and ends at zero (like Hi-Lo). The alternative would be an unbalanced count (such as K-O), which has an unbalanced ratio of “low cards” to “high cards.” With an unbalanced count, you typically do not start at zero, but start at an “initial running count”, thus not needing to convert from a running count to a true count.
While these systems are fairly simple to explain and understand, much more is required to implement them successfully inside the casino environment and make a profit. You’ll need to learn basic strategy, true count conversion, deck estimation, betting strategy, and bankroll management, before you can start clobbering casinos. We recommend considering a premium membership to learn everything you need to know to become a successful card counter and not lose your shirt trying to implement something you read about over the last 5 minutes.